In Ukraine, the great famine of 1932-1933, a suffocating tragedy


By Thomas Vader and Jerome Guthriete

Posted today at 4:00pm, updated at 5:02pm.

There was a crowd at Proto Station to welcome President Heriot to his good town. It must be said that on September 13, 1933, the impeachable mayor of Lyon, leader of the Radical Party and former president of the council, was returning from an extraordinary trip. A few days ago, at the invitation of the Soviet government, the Soviet Union crossed from Odessa to the Baltic Sea. Since the October Revolution of 1917, it was the first time that a political leader of this stature had the opportunity to visit the homeland of communism, about which disturbing rumors had been circulating for months.

As soon as he got off the train, the question that was burning on everyone’s lips was asked: Is there a famine in Ukraine? Edward Heriot’s response is not spontaneous with anything: « I crossed Ukraine. Ok! I tell you I saw it as a garden in full production, a beautiful garden of black and rich soil covered, over great tracts, with wonderful crops. Is it sure, you will tell me, that this region lives in these times in a sad time? » I can’t speak of what I didn’t see. However, I took myself to places said to have been tested. However, I only saw prosperity. »

French blindness

in his story anything goes (at Works , Robert Lafont, 2006), the great Soviet writer Vasily Grossman made a devastating reference to this episode: “One day, I remember, an old man brought to the head of the kolkhoz a piece of the newspaper, which he had picked up on the way. A Frenchman came to our house, a well-known minister, and they took him to the Dnepropetrovsk region where the most terrible famine was raging, and a famine worse than ours. There the men eat man. So the minister took him to a village, to the kolkhoz kindergarten, and asked there: What did you eat for lunch? And the children answered: “Chicken broth, pyrogki and rice croquettes.” To say I read this with my own eyes. This newspaper, I can still see. But what is this? We coldly kill millions of people, offend and deceive the whole world! Chicken broth write! Croquettes! As they ate earthworms… »

French Édouard Heriot, leader of the Radical Party and former prime minister, during an official visit to Kaif in 1933.

Edward Heriot stayed for two weeks in the Soviet Union, including five days in rich Ukraine (from August 26 to 30, 1933), and although during the previous months 3 to 5 million people died of starvation there, he did not see it. no thing. in a hard and lasting investigation (Mr. Heriot’s Journey(LHarmattan, 2018), historian Irina Dmitrichin highlights the means Stalin used to conceal the tragedy as well as the portion of blindness it took the French to accept, in the name of state cause, to look away when what he saw did not fit the official narrative. The city streets were “cleaned” of corpses and all traces of misery, shops were suddenly filled, hotels were hastily repainted (so that the smell disturbed visitors) … Nothing was missing, and he reached the summit in Kyiv, when Edward Heriot entered Sainte-Sophie Cathedral, during the service: It is Sunday. The old archbishop, dressed in a robe of gold bordered in red, is motionless, (…) The ceremony is quietly presided, while the cheers rise, and it is followed reverently by a few poor women under dark arcades »will describe later, is still fascinated by the spectacle.

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